I’m not going to come out well in today’s assessment.  I know this.  I’m an introvert.  I’ve lost many of my “in person” friends in my many moves over the past 5 1/2 years.  I have friends, but they’re largely online, many of them states or countries away.

The UCR Wellness Center lists these items under it social assessment:

  • Do I plan time to be with my family and friends?  My kids, yes.  This takes priority over every other thing in my life.  Friends… um, working on it?
  • Do I enjoy the time I spend with others?  Yes, actually.  I’m a true introvert, so people wear me out over time, but I still really enjoy being around them.  I love heart-to-heart talks and fun activities.  I just don’t do them much.
  • Are my relationships with others positive and rewarding?  Ouch.  Let’s see.  Failed marriage.  Failed engagement.  Friend who blocked me from his life.  Um… we’ll have to say working on it.
  • Do I explore diversity by interacting with people of other cultures, etc.?   Yes.  I don’t have a huge choice, given that I’m in metropolitan Los Angeles, but I’ve always enjoyed meeting and getting to know people who were “different” than I am.  I love cultures and I’m a writer, so it’s good background.  Anyway, people are just interesting.

So… I didn’t do quite as poorly as I thought I would, but I’m still not proud of my “score”.  Here are my goals:

Short-Term (3 Months)

* Interact with people (outside of my kids) on a weekly basis.  If I can’t get together with established friends, go outside my comfort zone and interact with strangers.

* Work on having positive, rewarding relationships.  For my three-month goal, I’m going to just figure out what that is.  I may blog it; it may turn out to be too personal.  We’ll see.

* Cultivate the friendships I already have.  Even if they’re “only Facebook” friends, take time to find out real things about their lives.

Mid-Term (1 Year)

* Grow at least three relationships (outside of my kids and work).

* Heal broken relationships if I can (maybe through an AA-type action?).

* Schedule weekly activities with others.  Play nice.

Long-Term (5 Years +)

I honestly don’t know what to put under long-term.  Maybe I will after I’ve worked on this for a while.  For now, I’m going to leave this area as one needing immediate attention.

How did your assessment go?  Any goals you want to share?

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

I am very fortunate.  I do not have the shopping gene most women seem to be born with.  I prefer to avoid malls and going shoe shopping is a violation of my Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I never use retail therapy.

I drive through Starbucks for an iced chai tea latte because I’ve had a hard day.  I buy a book I want to read instead of waiting for the library (or at least paperback) because I want to divert myself from emotions I’d rather not deal with.  Someone hurts my feelings and I go out for a hot fudge brownie ala mode.

None of these are bad things; it’s only bad when I use them to substitute dealing with life.  Nothing I can buy will buy me happiness.  Not a new house.  Not a new car.  Not even a nice new desktop computer and desk so I don’t write sitting hunched over on the floor (although that might bring me better posture).

Time to practice being content with what I have in order to practice happiness.   I don’t have anything at home to make a chai tea latte?  Then I can have peppermint tea and I’ll still be fine (and not put on a few pounds by the end of the week).  I don’t have a computer desk?  Then I should spend a little more time away from the computer– it’s better for my eyes, too.

I’m going to practice being content with what I have and not buying anything outside of necessities for the next week.  Hold me accountable!

Contentment isn’t about getting what you want, but about being happy with what you have.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.  – Hebrews 13:5

I have four kids.  Three of my kids have birthdays within a nine-day timespan (coming up shortly).  Shortly after, there’s Christmas, then the fourth child slides his birthday in at the middle of February.  Needless to say, this makes gift giving… interesting.

Now, back when I was a better budgeter, I had money set aside all year for gifts and spent it at the right time.  Now… I tend to plan for gifts far too immediately before the event.  That needs to change, but I’m still going to have to manage three birthdays in the next few weeks.  How do I save money on gifts?

One sneaky thing I do is movie clubs.  If your kids love movies (mine do) and you can do as much of the “deal” as possible to start, these can actually be a good deal.  For example, I have a deal from The Disney Movie Club to get five movies for $1, add a sixth for $11.95, add a seventh for $8.95, and free shipping.  Do the math on that one… I’m getting seven movies for the price of one.  In exchange, I agree to buy two more movies at some point during the next two years.  I usually buy one for the odd man out (whoever didn’t get a birthday or Christmas present in the original seven) and then buy the last one when it’s a good deal or something we really want.  I’m sure eventually we’ll run out of movies, but, for now, this works well.

Another thing I do is buy a gift through my kids’ school fundraisers.  This year, I managed to get one for each kid that way and still raised money for their school (and maybe helped them get a little prize).  This isn’t a favorite thing of mine; I hate these kind of fundraisers.  But it helps the school and the prices are usually reasonable, so it happens.

As far as birthdays go, I sign up for all the birthday clubs.  All of them.  We may not use all the freebies each year, but we always use some of them.  I took my oldest and two friends to an amusement-type park for almost six hours last weekend.  After snacks, drinks, and dinner, the cost was under $100.  I told the oldest this was his birthday present as well as party and he was good with it.  (Your mileage on that one may vary.)

I don’t try to buy gifts for every person we know.  I’d like to (even though gifts isn’t one of my predominant love languages), but I’d rather get nice gifts for those I get them for than get a bunch of cheap gifts for everyone.

The kids only get three gifts for Christmas (just like baby Jesus).  One very small gift, one medium gift, and one larger gift.  By saying it this way, I can change what “small”, “medium” and “large” are defined as when money is tight.

The final big gift giving tip is to buy all year around.  I don’t try to buy for Christmas during December; in fact, I try to never go near a shopping establishment after Thanksgiving.  Sales come up all year around and shouldn’t be missed just because it’s not Christmas yet.  The one exception is to make a run for a really good Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sale… but only if it’s really good.

Gift giving should never be painful and it should never put you into debt or stress  you out.  If it does, then you’re doing it wrong.  Seriously.




March 13, 2013

Sorry.  I have been flat-out exhausted for the last five days or so and couldn’t write coherent copy for anything.

I went to sleep before 8 last night and appear to be doing better mentally, although I’m still physically drained, so I’ll try to start catching up.  Thanks for your patience.

Proverbs 31:18

She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

A Proverbs 31 woman plans ahead; she’s not surprised (or at least not for long) by emergencies and unexpected events.  Turns out a beautiful woman plans ahead, too.

Planning ahead reduces stress.  Stress is one of the biggest destroyers of beauty and youth.  Planning ahead can’t remove stress entirely (and a complete lack of stress, ironically enough, is as unhealthy as too much), but it can cut it down immensely.

In my reading, I’m learning about T-cells (part of the immune system) and how they affect aging.  As we get older, we produce more memory T-cells, which remember the body’s responses to stress, infection, and invaders.  We simultaenously produce fewer naive T-cells, which enable us to attack new invaders.  Because of this, although our bodies still defend against known disease and infection, it has a harder time with each new one.  Stress acts in the same way, especially long-term, unrelenting stress, per the University of Chicago.

Planning ahead will keep stress managable.  If you plan your days (with room for adjustments), then you already know what you’ll be doing all day and surprises don’t hit as hard.  When you plan your menus, food choices are less stressful.  Likewise, if you plan for emergencies, you are better prepared to deal with it in a calm, not stressful, manners.

When you stress, your body goes through oxidative stress: the number of reactive free radicals produced by body processes such as  breathing or cellular functions exceeds the number of antioxidant  molecules capable of neutralizing the free radicals.  Over time, this damages the body.

The body itself produces antioxidants, provided it has enough manganese, copper, zinc, and other minerals to do so.  We can assist our body by eating foods rich in antioxidants (scientists generally concur that natural food sources are far more effective than supplements).  Foods like blueberries, pomegranates, walnuts, apples, spinach, sweet potatoes, green tea, almonds, and, yes, vices like coffee, red wine, and dark chocolate, are all rich in antioxidants.  Help your body out by eating these foods on a regular basis.

We can’t actually stop aging, nor can we truly reverse it, but we can do a lot of things to make aging go slowly.  The sooner you start, the better opportunity for it to take effect.


Here is a modified version of this recipe to get a huge antioxidant boost from a smoothie:

  • 8 oz almond milk (vanilla or plain)
  • 1/4 c dark chocolate powder/cocoa (not processed with alkali)
  • 1/2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 banana, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 c leafy greens (spinach/ kale)
  • 1/4 c applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 2-3 ice cubes (optional)

Blend all ingredients together until smooth and serve.  Makes 1 large serving ~200 calories.

Proverbs 31:15

She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.

I really should check on what’s coming up the next day.  I did not go to bed at a reasonable (or even quasi-reasonable) hour last night and had a very hard time getting up this morning.  On the plus, my commute pretty much requires me to get up while it’s still dark, so at least I got that one right.

I know that sleep is very important to health, sanity, looking younger, even weight-loss.  I’m also aware that I don’t quite seem to need eight hours every night; about 6-7 and I’m doing great.  As soon as I drop below that, though, I rack up a sleep deficit that stays with me for days.  Last night I definitely dropped below that.

When you stay up too late, you’re tired the next morning, so you have a coffee (for me, it has to be drowned in chocolate) or a soda.  Then you need energy so you have a handful of candy or a donut.  By the time evening rolls around, you’re so hyped on sugar and caffeine that you can’t sleep.  Not only that, but you’ve added an extra 200-1000 calories with caffeinated beverages and comfort food.  Ouch.

Sleep also affects our hormones.  When you’re sleep-deprived, you produce more ghrelin… which in turn tells you to eat more and keeps energy up (and all this time I thought I was running on adrenaline… which may also be true).  Sleep-deprivation also causes you to produce lesser amounts of leptin, which tells you to stop eating.  So you feel the urge to eat more often and have less of an urge to stop eating.

This verse also says to provide for your family.  It doesn’t matter if your family includes a spouse and eleven children,  just your children, just a spouse, or just you… the responsibility to provide is still there.

Finally, she provides for her female servants… or her employees if you have them.  If you can’t provide for your employees, you shouldn’t have a business. 

All of this, though, requires going to bed on time (with everything done so you sleep well) and getting up early to get a start on the day.


There are tips from Harvard on how to maximize your healthy sleep here.

I do not own a car.  I do not own a home.

I bought my first car (with cash) when I wasn’t quite 17.  I bought my first home when I was 28.  I’m not used to not having my own car and own home.

However, I’ve discovered some great advantages to not having either right now.

I have no mortgage or car payments and I pay minimal rent.  I do have to maintain my bike, pay for public transportation, and occasionally be inconvenienced by borrowing a car.  I have to share a home.  But I have no upkeep on a car or home, either.  No insurance.  My life is not wrapped up in either.

Not having a car or a home makes it easier to reach my financial goals.  I’ve grown and gotten less proud.

Per 1 Timothy 6:17, I need to keep my trust in God, not in the things of this world.  I was very dependent on my car and home (especially my car).  Now I’m learning not to be.

I don’t want to get back to where I was.  I want to be on guard, as Luke 12:15 says, against any kind of greed, even such a useful one as a car or a home.  Life is not measured by how much I own.

It’s here.  Letting go day.  Today I need to finish clearing out all the boxes and going through all my stuff into trash, donate, sell piles.  Some things in sell piles might move to donate and trash, but nothing gets to move back into the keep pile once I’ve put it into one of those three “get rid of” piles.

I’m allowing myself to keep certain things for the kids, certain mementos I currently have no way to scan, and seasonal items until I’ve gone through that season, but I’m trying to be ruthless.  Trying…

Life is a gift.  These things are a gift.  All of it belongs to God and if I’m having a problem giving it up, then maybe I need to let go of it even more.

The early church, as shown in Acts 4:32-35, were extremely generous and had no real issues with ownership.  Everything belonged to everyone.  They were able to be of one heart and one mind because there was no jealousy over possessions. 

How would my life be if I wasn’t defined by my possessions?  If I didn’t care about what I owned, how would my life change?

Time to let it all go. It’s not mine anyway, right?  By Matthew 25:14-21, I am just a caretaker anyway.  Am I hoarding what I’ve been given instead of using it wisely for God?

I’m grateful for what I’ve been entrusted with, but it’s time to share that wealth.  I pray for peace today as I give up ownership.  What I have isn’t mine.